by Russell Langer, UJS Campaigns Director 

Russell Langer

Russell Langer

The last few days for me have had a huge focus on Israel. It started with the incredible experience of travelling the UK with Ari Shavit on his campus tour, hearing his message of hope, and as I write this piece I am travelling back from Birmingham where I observed over 150 students engage respectfully with the Israeli Chargé d’Affaires.

During these positive and constructive conversations though, I have had to keep one eye on my phone. My phone is never quiet on the best of days, but over the last two weeks it has been working overtime with news alerts from Israel. This has been accompanied with my social media timelines filled with angry posts from both sides of the conflict.

It’s safe to say it has been depressing reading. At the time of writing, the most recent attack involved the stabbing of a 70 year-old woman. Even the fact that I’ve had to say ‘at the time of writing’ is depressing, as the assumption is it will not be the last.

I’m not new to the conflict. It is my job to engage in conversations with students across the country and I hear a wide variety of views. Though I may not always agree, I understand the criticisms of Israeli government policy. I understand that many across the political spectrum are frustrated with the lack of progress towards peace.

What I do not understand is at what point it becomes acceptable to stab a 70 year-old woman. I don’t understand why those travelling to the Kotel to pray could become a legitimate target. I don’t even want to try and understand a world where children are attempting to murder other children.

I don’t know if this is the start of a new Intifada or not. What I do know is that if this is a start of an Intifada then we have to expect more blood to be spilled from both Israelis and Palestinians.

As the word ‘Intifada’ passes through my head I have to remind myself where I have heard that word in recent times. I’m reminded of a popular chant on campus, which concludes with “globalise the Intifada”, and the anti-Israel website ‘Electronic Intifada’. So I have to ask those who have shouted this word so easily; is this what you wanted? Do you want to live in a world where people are murdered in the street for being Israeli, or Jewish, or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Israelis are not the only victims of this conflict. Every death is tragic and only serves to continue the cycle of violence. But regardless of your opinion on Bibi, settlements, occupation, the IDF etc. that should not and does not make these senseless killings ok.

Of course, the situation has not been helped by some of the headlines we have seen during this period. I usually prefer not to always quickly jump to the conclusion of media bias – but some of their recent portrayals have just been irresponsible. No wonder we fail to discuss the conflict in a respectful and mature manner when it is being reported with misleading headlines, which confuse attacker with victim, and absolve the accountability of those who have harmed innocent Israelis.

I don’t care if you agree with me on anything else I have ever said or anything I say in the future – but I ask for you to agree with me on this: every additional death in this conflict is one too many.

I often say that we will only have peace when the average Israeli and the average Palestinian are able to trust the other. But as we all know, that will not be the case when the only interactions between them involve at best, mistrust, and at worst, murderous intent.

The situation does not look good from the UK, but we need to do our best to try and improve it. When the only option ever presented on campus are blunt tools like BDS (Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions), then we see that people do not truly understand the conflict. Instead of driving Israelis and Palestinians apart, let’s propose an alternative that will actually support them in coming together in a way that does not end in bloodshed.